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This paper considers British private subscription libraries and their European (near) equivalents at a turbulent period of history. Following the French Revolution, many governments tried to prevent libraries from acquiring inflammatory and heretical literature: “infidel books”. In Britain arguments about book selection were confined to individual library committees, but governments abroad took direct action. In Germany Freemasons infiltrated subscription libraries, resulting in the banning of libraries in several countries. In France officials kept libraries under surveillance, whilst Hanover feared for the morals of children exposed to libraries. Little literature exists in English on continental libraries of this period, and this paper utilizes foreign-language material based on official and other contemporary sources to present a picture of censorship and surveillance.